Is there a tool to help guide "pause and reflect" activities/develop questions for a pause and reflect activity?

Is there a tool or resource to help build a learning event centered around the "pause and reflect" CLA method? Is there a resource to help build useful learning questions in a "pause and reflect" activity to produce a useful conversation?


Bari Rabin | Dexis Consulting Group
Aug 29, 2017

Hi, Ciara.

Excellent question! There are many options for facilitating pause and reflection. In choosing an approach, consider your goals (Are you looking to raise self-awareness? To surface lessons to apply going forward? To update a process, approach or document?), the amount of time you have to plan and carry out the activity, and the degree of complexity you are comfortable with. While at the individual level you can encourage colleagues to journal or blog, it sounds like you’re looking to lead pause and reflection with a group. Here are some ideas and a few resources that may help:

·         Big Picture Reflection: Facilitated constructive dialogue, on issues such as development hypotheses, game changer issues, and program foci, which aims to improve the quality and substance of discourse and to validate the direction of USAID development assistance, or elicit suggestions for changes. Base your design around the key question(s) you want the group to consider and discuss.

·         Fish Bowl discussion: Based on the notion that certain groups of people (such as people of different positions, gender, etc.) may relate in different ways when uninterrupted and much awareness can be raised by simply hearing what other groups have to say on particular topics. Participants from one group sit in a tight circle in the middle of the room discussing a particular issue or question while the others observe, remaining quiet during the discussion. Resource.

·         After Action Review (AAR): An assessment conducted after a project, major activity, or just a new approach, which allows team members and leaders to uncover what happened and why, reassess direction, and review both successes and challenges. Resource.

·         Appreciative Inquiry: A change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction people in the organization focus their attention. Video interview with Kipp Sutton, USAID/RDMA. View until 6:30.

·         Knowledge Café: A means of bringing a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest to surface their collective knowledge, to share ideas and insights and to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues involved. Resource.

More information on reflection activities can be found in this online guide: Facilitating Reflection: A Manual for Leaders and Educators


In terms of what makes a good learning question, PPL’s CLA team offers this advice:


• Have potential to inform a decision

• Inform or iterate the theory of change

• Be clear enough to be understood by those who will apply the answer

• Be specific enough to have an answer (however that answer may vary in format)

• Be right-sized to the (minimal) rigor required

• Match the time horizon required to pursue it • Leave room for that which we did not think to ask



• Update or expand existing analysis

• Require looking beyond the evidence that emerges from implementation

• Cross technical areas

• Include operational and management areas of focus

• Need to be asked more than once over time

• Require collaborative learning or varied perspectives to answer


Have fun developing your pause and reflect activity and let us know how it goes or if you have additional questions!

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